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An Interview with David Cross

I have a complicated relationship with David Cross’s art. When we met, I expressed my opinion that he is incredibly talented, with a knack for absurd humor and excellent timing.

However, his stand-up performances can often be too abrasive and driven by anger, which weakens the appeal.

When I was the managing editor of New York Press, his second CD was released and the paper included him in the “50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers” list, with the staff labeling him as “meandering” and “not funny”.

Even though some of us agreed with his liberal views, the tone was seen as too harsh and off-putting.

I have never been able to comprehend why Cross has taken it upon himself to come out publicly against people like Scott Stapp from Creed, Jim Belushi, and Larry the Cable Guy.

During my conversation with Cross in 2007 at his apartment in the East Village, I found him to be quite perceptive and open to discussing delicate matters with candor and introspection. By the end of our conversation, I had grown to admire him a lot.

One interesting detail that I noticed was that his towels in the bathroom had been embroidered. One said “David’s” and the other said “Also David’s”. I’m unsure of what to make of this, but as a journalist, I couldn’t help but share the observation.

–Adam Bulger’s words

HATER: Despite your clear talent, I sense a certain hostility in your presence and performances.

David Cross expressed that he had received many comments that he was condescending, and he couldn’t deny it if so many people had the same opinion. He continued by saying that he got that description more than any other.

Are you being patronizing?

DC acknowledges that their behavior can seem condescending, something they themselves hate. They explain that this is partly due to their difficult upbringing and the influence of growing up in Roswell, Georgia, as well as their strong opinion that all religion is “garbage”.

Despite this, they still have religious or spiritual friends they appreciate and know to be intelligent. DC admits they would be better off if they were fairer, but they understand that it is a part of their core beliefs and identity.

When talking about Eddie Izzard to the Onion A.V. Club in 1999, you said something along the lines of: “He tends to bring up intellectual concepts and not expand upon them…and yet he is still applauded for introducing them.

He is a satirist who makes fun of American politics, but his work is not particularly profound.”

Is DC suggesting that the pot is accusing the kettle of being equally as guilty?

Do I have a certain opinion? Is it inaccurate in your opinion?

DC expressed his fear, remarking that sometimes it is present and other times it is absent in his work. He mentioned the sophomoric “Fuck Bush, he’s an asshole” part of his act and stated that it was inexcusable.

HTR: In a different interview, it was said, “It is important to instruct people in a composed and sensible fashion, with reason and details. It is not effective to make a statement such as ‘Bush is a Nazi’ and anticipate individuals to accept it.”

I definitely agree with your opinion. In regards to my comedy act, I am not attempting to change anybody’s opinion; I’m just a person performing comedy.

Do you believe that a comedy that is focused on politics has the ability to alter someone’s opinion?

DC: Can you think of a time as an adult that you have had your perspective on something completely altered due to the work of a comedian? Most likely, the answer is no. That is not what I am attempting to do.

Going on Air America and NPR for interviews is not the same as doing a stand-up routine; I am not aiming to be humorous, but rather to share facts and articulate my reasoning with others.

HTR: Are you unconcerned with appearing overly vehement?

DC: No, not really. I wouldn’t say that I was shrill. When I started doing that work in 2000 and 2001, I was inexperienced and raw. I was enraged, and I couldn’t comprehend how people were so easily influenced.

That’s where a lot of my anger came from, being surprised at how easy it was to manipulate people.

HTR: It’s clear you were quite upset and your emotions were running high. Even though I feel bad for saying it, were you lacking in the humor department?

I have never composed jokes, but I do take notes on paper and use them as inspiration while performing live. I don’t believe it is just to imply that it is not humorous, although I understand that is your opinion.

I’m not denying that it’s amusing, but I do think it could be more sophisticated in its delivery. With some refinement, it could be a lot whittier and better constructed.

DC: Most likely. You can keep editing and refining it. But that’s not my specialty. It might be funnier, but it wouldn’t be true to my style. I could probably come up with a funnier, more concise routine, but that’s the kind of comedy I do.

I get it if people don’t find it appealing and would rather listen to someone else. I’m perplexed, though, by how angry some people get at me.

You have managed to elicit the ire of an individual with the surname of “the Cable Guy.”

I have never encountered him in person, yet I consider that he has shown admirable restraint.

My reaction was caused by the attitude of “You can make fun of me all you want, but don’t mess with my fans.” A journalist from Rolling Stone talked to me for a considerable amount of time and picked out the most controversial sentences, which I still believe.

Larry the Cable Guy is intelligent, but he appeals to his fan base by making them feel like victims of the left, who think they’re all yahoo idiots. I don’t have any animosity towards him, but I do believe that the material on my stand-up CDs was correct and ahead of its time.

I am happy to have been proven right.

HTR [ Mimes scribbling something on paper ] Mr. Cross insists that his haughty attitude is correct.

DC: Agreed. The situation seems to be getting worse and worse. Still, though, I can understand why people are feeling so angry.

When I listened to those stand-up discs, I found it disconcerting because it was different from the gentle, comedic style of Mr. Show. There was a person onstage, vociferously expressing their thoughts.

DC suggests that it can be difficult to appreciate a comedian’s humor when they appear to be shouting at the crowd. However, they insist that they are not targeting individuals, but instead addressing the world.

The comedian acknowledges that some people might take this the wrong way. DC acknowledges that they are particularly conscious of their words when touching on the subject of religion.

HTR: You don’t believe in God. What causes you to continually emphasize that?

I don’t believe I’m just reiterating that I’m an atheist; rather, I’m examining numerous aspects of faith. I look into Mormonism, Scientology, Judaism, Catholicism, and Christianity, and I think people are unaware of how pervasive religion is.

Is there a difference in the way you interact when you’re the one speaking into a microphone compared to when you’re conversing with your pals in a bar?

DC commented that one of the aspects of themself that some people don’t appreciate is the lack of distinction they make between people. Although the sentiment may be seen as preachy, it is what it is.

Do you have an open-minded attitude towards the faith of your friends?

DC expressed that it is hard to bring up religion without coming off as an unpleasant person. Spending time in bars with friends, debating politics and religion is something that provides gratification for him. He considers it a successful day when there is a passionate conversation.

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